In 1933, a sheet metal contractor named Hyman Blaushild felt he wasn't getting the service he wanted from his suppliers. Seeing an opportunity in the market, he decided to switch to wholesaling and founded Famous Supply in Cleveland.
Next year, Famous Supply will celebrate its 80th anniversary. While it still serves contractors in Cleveland, the wholesaler has also expanded to sell HVAC, plumbing, industrial PVF, and building products in the Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and West Virginia markets. Today, the company has 26 locations and employs around 500 people.
Jay Blaushild, Hyman's son and the current chairman of the company, noted that his father, who died 42 years ago, would be proud of Famous Supply's progress. But, Jay noted, his father "might not have been as surprised as many people might think" if he could see the company today. According to Jay, his father had a dream for Famous Supply's future and knew where it was going.
LEADING OUTNow that the third generation of the Blaushild family is running the business, that dream is continuing, and the leaders are optimistic about its prospects for growth. At Famous Supply, there is no doom-and-gloom attitude about the current economy. The leaders are upbeat, and their optimism about the company's future is contagious. Since Jay handed over the day-to-day operations of the company around eight years ago, his son Marc now serves as president and CEO. And the fourth generation has also entered the business; Marc's son Brian joined the company two years ago.
"For our team at Famous, these are exciting and invigorating times. We're looking forward," Marc said.
Famous Enterprises is the umbrella company over three distribution companies: Famous Supply (the main Ohio distribution company); Pittsburgh Plumbing, Heating & Industrial (PPHI, the Pennsylvania distribution company); and J.F. Good (an industrial PVF distribution company).
"We sell into the residential, commercial, and industrial markets for new construction, replacement, repair, remodel, and parts and service," Marc said. He also noted that Famous Enterprises has two plants in southern Ohio that manufacture sheet metal products. "We sell [sheet metal] to support our contractors, and we sell to distributors in about 25 other states," he explained. "It's an important part of our business."
Famous carries products from a range of manufacturers, including Allied, Luxaire, Heating and Cooling Products (HCP), Honeywell, Arzel, Mitsubishi Electric, GeoStar, Reznor, Aprilaire, and Hart & Cooley.
The wholesaler is focused on maintaining good relationships with these manufacturers, as well as providing exceptional service to its customers.
GROWING TOGETHERAccording to Marc, Famous Supply's philosophy for success in business is centered on its five core values: family, trust, communication, teamwork, and continuous improvement. He defines the value of family as a way of treating the Famous associates, customers, and key suppliers.
"Those core values for us stand the test of time," he said. "Although our business strategy can change, those core values are the essence of the people that are on our team. Working together has really sustained us."
He reiterated that "our people really are the foundation of our success." At Famous, they don't like to refer to anyone as an "employee"; instead, they use the term "associate." And they are determined to treat all associates well.
According to Marc, "Our vision is to be a great company with sustainable profitability where our associates share in our success with an annual team bonus, so our people are energized to build something great."
He added that the knowledge and experience of the Famous Associates are invaluable. While the company did reduce staff during the recession, Marc noted that Famous has hired more than 50 people in the last year and a half. "And we're looking to hire about 100 people over the next three and a half years to support our growth initiative," he added.
Where do all these great employees come from? According to Marc, Famous has been fortunate because the company's reputation has led to many good people seeking out the company after hearing about it through referrals. But it's not just luck and good referrals that have created a solid team of employees at Famous.
"We go through an extensive, extensive interview process not just to find the right ones, but to not hire the wrong ones," Jay said. "You can't interview too much in my opinion." Each candidate for an open position at Famous undergoes many rounds of interviews, perhaps being interviewed by six different people at the company.
"It's amazing to see how people look at the same person and whether they see the right values and potential," Jay said.
He also noted that it has become harder in recent years to interview. "Because people have had so many jobs, they know what questions you're going to ask them. Years ago it wasn't like that, and we had easier laws so you could find out more from [a candidate's] references."
But with its commitment to a family environment, Famous continues to conduct multiple interviews in order to find people who are the right cultural fit. "If they have the right attitude and intelligence, you can teach people the business," Jay said.
And, he explained that the company prefers to promote from within its own ranks, which is another motivating influence for Famous associates. "We are big on empowerment," he said. He added that his father Hyman never used that word but certainly understood and ingrained the principle of bringing the right people in and then giving them authority and responsibility.
"Our vice president of sales started out in the warehouse," Jay said, "and I could mention lots of other stories like that."
GROWING BIGGERIn addition to growing its staff, Famous has plans to grow overall, which may include more branch openings or acquisitions down the road.
For now, Marc said, "We're focused on growing all four of the product categories that we're in, and on being able to support more customers that are coming on board."
This year, Famous projects it will reach $235 million in sales, which will be a nice growth improvement over 2011.
"We're not trying to sound overconfident, but we're not nervous," Marc said. "We are just sticking to our game plan by focusing on customer service and managing our initiatives."
He added, "We are probably gaining some market share based on some of the things we're doing since we opened a couple new branches this year."
Earlier this year Famous opened a branch within its distribution center in Sebring, Ohio, and also opened a new branch in Bedford Heights, Ohio.
The Bedford Heights location on the east side of Cleveland has given Marc's son Brian a new opportunity to learn the family business. Brian recently became the manager of the new branch, and he is excited about the historical significance of the location as well as its potential for growth.
"Our first location in 1933 was in downtown Cleveland," he said. "We've expanded so much outward that we wanted to get back to our roots and come back to Cleveland."
The Bedford Heights location employs 17 people at present, but Brian noted they are still in hiring mode and trying to find more individuals to help grow the branch. He is also grateful for the team that surrounds him and is helping him tackle this new challenge.
"I don't feel like I'm on an island because tons of incredibly experienced people surround me," he said. "We brought over people with branch management experience here to help support me and our customers. We are a real team."
LOOKING DOWN THE ROADWith big goals and a vision of growth for the future, the opportunities for Famous are unlimited, Jay said. He added that he welcomes future challenges, noting that the company has successfully navigated challenges in the past, such as competition from big-box stores, national distributors moving into its territory, and Internet sales. And he is especially proud of how his son has continued to lead the business forward, adding, "I hope my grandson is continuing the same path, and from what I see, he is."
Marc added that Famous intends to continue down the path it originally started on. "We want to keep the company private and to continue to grow and develop with our next generation of leaders," he said. "Our people are very energized and motivated. We've built momentum, and we're looking to do everything we can to serve our customers to the very best of our ability and to help them succeed."